Glaucoma Surgery: Recovery

After you have glaucoma surgery, you probably look forward to a healthy recovery and the ability to lower your eye pressure. Lowering of the eye pressure helps to preserve your vision and prevent future vision loss. Here is more information on what to expect during your recovery from glaucoma surgery.

Female doctor shaking hands with a patient.
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Surgery Follow-Up

For the first few weeks after surgery, vision in the eye where you had glaucoma surgery will probably remain blurry. This will get better over a few weeks. You will rely more on your other eye to see, assuming that you have good vision in that eye.

Your eye may look red, irritated, or swollen after surgery—this is completely normal. You also may feel as if you have something in your eye. Take care to not rub your eye as this could cause further damage.

If you have had a type of glaucoma surgery called a trabeculectomy, your eye also may form a bleb, which you can think of as a drainage pipe to help fluid reach the outside of the eye. This aids in relieving eye pressure. Blebs typically form where other people can’t see them, such as under the eyelid.

Your doctor will want to see you several times within the six-week period after surgery to make sure your eye is healing properly and to evaluate how fluid drains out of your eye. This usually includes an appointment a day and then a week after surgery and then two to four other appointments through those six weeks.

Your eye doctor may schedule fewer appointments depending on how your healing progresses. During a follow-up appointment, your eye doctor may remove any stitches that are in the eye.

You may eventually need to change your glasses or contact lens prescription after glaucoma surgery. Your doctor will let you know when or if you should start using your glaucoma medicines again. Sometimes, glaucoma surgery can reduce or change the number of glaucoma drops that you use.

Recovery Timeline

Recovery from glaucoma surgery typically takes a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of job you have and the vision in your non-surgical eye. Vision in that eye is important because you’ll rely on that eye a lot more to see until the blurriness in your surgical eye reduces.

You should be able to return to your job in about a week or two. You shouldn’t have any restrictions on watching TV, using your phone or other electronic devices, or using your computer after glaucoma surgery. However, your eyes may tire quickly after using them in the initial days or weeks after surgery.

In the first couple of weeks after surgery, avoid intense exercise such as running or lifting more than 10 pounds. Your doctor can give you more guidance on the timeline to return to more strenuous exercise. You’ll also want to avoid activities that involve bending, lifting, or straining, as those could put unneeded pressure on the eye.

Because of the risks to your eye from straining on the toilet, your doctor may recommend the use of a laxative if you are constipated.

In those same first few weeks, you’ll also want to avoid: 

  • Getting your hair colored or permed
  • Having water near the eye
  • Rubbing the eye
  • Swimming
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Wearing eye makeup

All of those could put your surgical eye at risk for damage or infection if water or bacteria get inside the eye. Make sure to wear sunglasses outside if your eyes feel more sensitive to the sun.

Coping with Recovery

Most people who have glaucoma surgery don't have significant pain. However, if pain is a problem, find out from your doctor if it’s OK to use Tylenol (acetaminophen) or another other-the-counter pain reliever.

Although a bleb normally forms after a trabeculectomy to help drain fluid outside of the eye, there still is a chance you’ll need a procedure called a needling to remove scar tissue around the bleb.

Any type of surgery may cause you to experience changes in your mental health, including glaucoma surgery. Having glaucoma is associated with a greater risk for depression. This is because you may have to face a growing reliance on others and less dependence associated with vision loss.

If you find yourself feeling sad or anxious after glaucoma surgery, talk to a trusted friend or family member. You also could ask your eye doctor or primary care doctor about a referral to a mental health professional, such as a therapist.

Wound Care

Immediately after glaucoma surgery, you will most likely wear a shield over the eye, but your doctor will eventually switch you to use the shield only at night for about two weeks. The shield helps to protect the eye against damage and infections.

You also may have to insert eye drops such as antibiotics, anti-scarring medications, or steroids. When you insert drops, your eyes may burn or water up more than usual. This should stop after a day or two post-surgery.

Pay close attention to the instructions on how to insert eye drops. Always wash your hands before using eye drops. If you have any trouble inserting eye drops on your own, ask a family member or caregiver for help.

Let your eye doctor know if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Pus or discharge that comes out of the eye
  • Redness or swelling in the eye area
  • A fever
  • New pain in the eye
  • Symptoms of a blood clot in your leg, such as pain in your leg or groin or leg redness or swelling

These symptoms could indicate an infection that needs to get treated promptly.

Call your doctor or 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

A Word From Verywell

Although glaucoma surgery doesn’t make glaucoma go away, it should make it a lot easier to lower your eye pressure so you can sustain your vision and prevent vision loss.

Recovery from glaucoma surgery is a process, and there may be some smaller procedures or changes to your glaucoma management along the way. Work with your eye doctor to follow any recommended changes so you can preserve your eye health for the future.

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Article Sources
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  2. Glaucoma Research Foundation. What is bleb needling?

  3. UW Health. Tube-shunt surgery for glaucoma.

  4. UWHealth. Tube-shunt surgery.

  5. Wills Eye Surgery. Trabeculectomy surgery for glaucoma.

  6. Pelcic G, et al. Glaucoma, depression, and quality of life: Multiple comorbidities, multiple assessments and multidisciplinary treatment plan. Psychiatr Danub. 2017 Sep;29(3):351. doi:10.24869/psyd.2017.351

  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Trabeculectomy.